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GM workers to strike as wage talks stall

Venue disagreement means negotiations haven’t even started
June 21,2019
General Motors (GM) Korea workers voted to strike over stagnant wage negotiation Thursday, signaling a full-scale protest in the near future.

According to GM Korea’s labor union, 74.9 percent, or 6,037 workers, of the 8,055 labor union members voted in favor of the strike. Only 785 workers voted against striking.

The vote, which started Wednesday and ended Thursday afternoon, was held at GM Korea plants and facilities in Bupyeong District, Incheon; Changwon, South Gyeongsang; and Gunsan, North Jeolla. Around 85 percent, or 6,835, of GM Korea workers, excluding ones working at GM Technical Center Korea, participated in the vote.

As more than 50 percent voted for the strike, workers could walk out at any time depending on the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission, expected to be reached Monday.

Last week, the unionized workers submitted an application to the commission asking to mediate the stalled labor dispute. If labor disputes remain stalled, the central labor authority can either order to suspend the negotiations or provide administrative guidance.

The unionized workers can wage a strike only if the labor commission rules to stop negotiations.

The union has been arguing that the management has been intentionally delaying wage negotiations by unreasonably demanding a change in the venue of the negotiations for safety reasons.

GM Korea’s labor union and management were supposed to enter full-fledged negotiations on May 30, but the first meeting has been canceled six times due to conflict between the parties on deciding the location of negotiations.

The management has been asking the union to move negotiations to a place with multiple exits in case of possible detainment.

The previously used meeting hall at GM Korea’s headquarters in Incheon is where the automaker’s chief executive Kaher Kazem was detained by temporary workers over a labor dispute in April last year. The contract workers made the move in a bid to force the management to hire them as full-time employees.

“We can only view this as a calculated plan from the management as we already assured safety for negotiations,” said Lim Han-taek, head of the GM Korea branch of the Korea Metal Workers’ Union, in a letter to unionized workers Wednesday urging them to vote in favor of a strike.

“Our proposed meeting place is where the management requested in the first place and is also a place that contains 30 years of labor-management negotiation history.”

GM Korea’s labor union is scheduled to open a committee to come up with a strike plan when the central labor commission reaches a decision on its application.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]